Thursday, January 7, 2016

Decluttering as Spiritual Discipline

Stepping all the way off the merry-go-round involves walking away into the uncommitted future and welcoming a wide-open future. As one nearing 67, the idea of a wide-open future with the possibility of newness, learning, and adventure is very exciting.

Walking away means limiting the amount of news and information coming at me from my usual sources, which is manifested in unsubscribing from groups and causes and their attendant voluminous emails and newsletters. It also means not compulsively reading every post made by my Facebook friends, even though I remain curious about what they’re doing and thinking.

This process of stepping off involves a fundamental change in self-definition and not merely a change in choice of activities. I’ve always valued being a well-informed person and reveled in that self-perception. Others have valued that about me, too, seeking me as a source of information in their searches for connection. I admit that my sense of self-worth has been built in significant measure on such a self-image. When others have commented that I am courageous to be choosing radical sabbatical, I suspect they have recognized how much of myself I must relinquish in order to be able to step all the way off the merry-go-round.

I am letting go of the constant stream of data and invitations to events from religious and social justice arenas that I still care passionately about . . . I continue to hold the people in these ministries in my prayers and meditations . . . I am entering a future where I will not have an identity defined by the outside work that I do or the titles and roles that I bear. All this reminds me of my profession as a teenager that I wanted my epitaph to read merely, "She was," because nothing more needs to be said.

What I know is this: I can’t allow myself to get consumed by the influx of information, requests, and events in this time of radical sabbatical. I am focused on getting down to the roots of my existence and why and for whom I am here.

I wrote recently to a Facebook friend that I had come to view the institutional church as a greedy companion. The church beckons with invitations full of delightful ministry and promises for deep personal growth. The church, which includes all its peripheral communities, never stops beckoning . . . until my own desire to participate begins to reflect more obligation and overwhelm than blessing and nurture.

I wonder how much my own personality traits contribute to my experience of the institutional church. I admit that I have a proclivity towards compulsive activity. So, to be clear, I’m not placing blame on anyone or anything else. Yet, I wonder if this isn’t part of the experience of the emerging church and those who say they are spiritual but not religious.

Tidying my desk has filled bags of recyclable paper . . . numerous sets of minutes and financial reports, notes, newsletters, and brochures . . . as well as the evidence of my compulsion to file statements from all the accounts that financially established adults accumulate.

For the first time in many years, I actually found the time to write a new year’s letter to send to family and friends. It was written and sent in an effort to rekindle relationships, especially with the thoughtful ones who have shared their Christmas letters with us.

The good news is that we can turn over new leaves. We can teach ourselves new tricks or rediscover old tricks we’ve forgotten. I’m giving it a try in a substantive way in 2016. My mother and my husband will be glad to know that next I'm finally going through and tossing the "trash, not treasure" from the boxes used as holding bins in the house and garage! 

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